If I were to ask the majority of people in my little community what they know about GMO, most of them would probably say “not much”.  A few (sadly) would likely say “you mean the car company?”  Sure, you chuckle but it’s true.  Most people have no clue what a GMO is or why it would be important to them.

So, I decided to put something together for the average Joe that explains what a GMO is and why there’s so much in the news on this subject right now.  They say “knowledge is power”, right?

The term GMO stands for genetically modified organism.  Most people think this is a new concept, but the truth is that farmers have been crossing breeding produce for years to create the most desirable traits.  Do you know where Gala Apples come from?  They are a cross breed between the Kid’s Orange-Red Apple and the Golden Delicious apple.  Sounds harmless, right?

Well, unfortunately, scientists are no longer just merging traits within the same species.  Take the case of Monsanto and corn.  The corn was genetically altered so that it could be resistant to Roundup herbicide.  That way, all of the weeds around the corn would be killed, but the corn would continue to grow and thrive.  Does anybody see the problem here?  That same corn is going to end up either as animal feed or in the grocery store.  Either way, it could end up on your table.

A two year French study (that you can read here) suggested that lab rats were having hormonal issues, liver problems and cancerous tumors at an incredibly alarming rate after ingesting this modified corn.  Some naysayers will argue that the research is flawed and that the results were ‘created’ to serve a particular agenda.  The point is do you want to take that chance with your family?

Several countries, such as Russia and the UK, have banned the use of chemically altered foods for human consumption, but the U.S. has not.  In fact, the FDA supports voluntary labeling.  Really?  Sadly, this doesn’t surprise me because several companies, like Kraft, have proven that they’re willing to take banned ingredients out of a particular product (like macaroni & cheese) in order to continue selling them in that country.   And yet, those same ingredients are in the U.S. equivalents.

There are those on the pro-GMO side who argue that genetic engineering of crops is necessary for a number of reasons.  They maintain that by creating crops that are resistant to cold weather, pests and herbicides, they can ensure that there is enough food to feed the rapidly growing world population.  They argue that GMO’s are useful for growing crops in drought stricken regions and helping with the issue of malnutrition.  But their opponents say it’s all about the profits.

Those against GMO’s cite health and environmental factors as the biggest concerns.  Environmentalists are concerned that crop rotation will no longer be practiced, that certain insects will become immune to these pesticides, and cause potential harm to other species.

Although there has been some testing, many critics of GMO’s feel that there is just not enough evidence to support the FDA’s claim that bioengineered food is safe.  They want these foods tested for their toxicity, ability to produce allergens, and any nutritional effects.

But the real issue is not just whether you agree or disagree with the concept of bioengineered food.  Some will harshly criticize it, others will support it, and still others will be completely unaware.  The real issue is about giving consumers the CHOICE.  And right now, it’s the creators of these “bio foods” that hold the cards.

What are some examples of genetically engineered crops in the U.S.?  Corn, soybeans, cotton and sugar beets rank the highest.  But what many people don’t realize is that there are “hidden” GMO’s in your foods.  Look at your soft drink labels, doughnut wrappers, chocolate ice cream carton, snack foods, soup cans and cracker boxes.  They most likely contain these GMO’s.   According to www.reusethisbag.com, about 80% of packaged foods contain GMO’s.  But guess what?  You don’t know about it because the food manufacturers are not required to tell you, the consumer.

There will always be those who are pro-GMO or who feel that labeling products as such is not a good idea.  But there are just too many unknowns when it comes down to GMO’s and their impact on our health.  The fact that countries such as Russia, the UK, Japan and Australia have banned GMO’s is enough to raise the red flag for me.  And whether or not I expose my family to GMO’s on the dinner table should my choice.  Don’t you want that choice as well?

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Tags: FDA, GMO's, food, genetically, kids, labeling, modified, nutrition, parenting

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